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Microsoft working on deepfake detection tool ahead of US elections

Voting in the US

With concerns growing over the threat of deepfake and its potential to spread misinformation ahead of US elections, Microsoft has announced a new tool aimed at helping politicians. Microsoft said it plans to offer the tool to US political candidates leading up to the 2024 presidential elections.

The tool, which Microsoft President Brad Smith unveiled this week, will allow parties to watermark images and videos with cryptographic credentials. This will create a permanent record showing whether the content has been digitally altered over time.

The goal is to give users and the public a way to verify that campaign materials, like ads and speeches, have not been manipulated through deepfake technologies.

We’re starting today by endorsing in the United States the bi-partisan bill “Protect Elections from Deceptive AI Act” introduced by Senators Klobuchar, Collins, Hawley, and Coons. This important piece of legislation prohibits the use of artificial intelligence to generate materially deceptive content falsely depicting federal candidates in political ads to influence federal elections, with important exceptions for parody, satire, and the use of AI-generated content by newsrooms.

Initial uptake of the tool remains uncertain, as a similar offer from Microsoft in 2020 saw limited adoption. However, deepfakes pose a serious threat, as seen by several manipulated videos spreading misinformation in recent campaign periods.

Microsoft also warned that both traditional and high-tech methods, including AI, could be used by authoritarian states to undermine election processes in 2024. In response, Microsoft will take five steps to strengthen the security of key votes in the US and elsewhere. "No one person, institution or company can guarantee that elections will be free and fair," the blog reads. "But by stepping up and working together, we can make meaningful progress in protecting everyone's right to free and fair elections."

On the other hand, some note the irony that Microsoft also invests heavily in generative AI through its $10 billion stake in OpenAI, whose Dall-E has enabled realistic image generator. Still, the company sees addressing deepfakes as critical to safeguarding free and fair elections.

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